On Dreams And Dreaming

“Dreams are nature’s answering service – don’t forget to pick up your messages once in a while.” – Sarah Crestinn

Of all the things that affect humans on a near-daily basis, how many remain as mystical as dreaming? The nature and purpose of dreams have been debated since the beginning, and yet, we still have no conclusion or consensus.

In his published essay on Enron (and now in his book What The Dog Saw), Malcolm Gladwell makes reference to National Security expert Greg Treverton’s famous distinction between puzzles and mysteries. Mysteries do not have simple, factual answers. And although puzzles really don’t either, they are by process and intelligence, well, solvable. When the right amount information is found, puzzles can and will eventually be solved. Mysteries on the other hand, “require judgments and the assessment of uncertainty, and the hard part is not that we have too little information but that we have too much.”

Dreams are a mystery. Dreams are not a puzzle. We will not one day realize the complete physiology and meaning of dreams to its fullest extent so that we can close the text book on dreams. They are a mystery and will remain a mystery. Yes, we may continuously add new findings and hypotheses – either through scientific research or epiphanies, but I believe dreams are inherently a mystery. They are not meant to be fully discovered.

That being said, there are plenty of facts out that characterizing dreams and their nature. Here are some:

  • We dream on average of one or two hours every night. And we often even have 4-7 dreams in one night.
  • One third of our lives is spent sleeping. In our lifetime, we will have spent about 6 years of it dreaming. That is more than 2,100 days spent in a different world.
  • Five minutes after the end of the dream, half the content is forgotten. After ten minutes, 90% is lost.
  • Dreamers who are awakened right after REM sleep, are able to recall their dreams more vividly than those who slept through the night until morning.
  • Men tend to dream more about other men, while women dream equally about men and women.
  • Everybody dreams. Simply because you do not remember your dream does not mean that you did not dream.
  • If you are snoring, then you cannot be dreaming.
  • Studies have shown that our brain waves are more active when we are dreaming than when we are awake.
  • Blind people do dream. Whether visual images will appear in their dream depends on whether they where blind at birth or became blind later in life.
  • Back in the Roman Era, striking and significant dreams were submitted to the Senate for analysis and interpretation.
  • The word dream stems from the Middle English word, dreme which means “joy” and “music”.

References/Links

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3 thoughts on “On Dreams And Dreaming

  1. I love this post – the opening quote is great. Dreams are great problem solvers. When I’m stuck on something, I usually try to think about it right before I fall asleep – not in a dwelling way, but like “hey sub conscious, see what you can do with this?” I keep a notebook by my bed, and immediately when I wake up in the morning write down any scraps I can remember, especially any emotions I felt in the dream. Best problem solver there is!

    Did NOT know snoring means no dreaming. Does that have something to do with the REM cycle you’re in? Do people with sleep apnea have less dreams then?

  2. thanks for the comment! (my first comment in 2010 maybe… eek)

    i probably should have done a better job of vetting some of the dream facts listed, but they are interesting to think about regardless. and while searching “snoring and sleeping” it seems to be a hotly debated question. my favorites are the discussion boards where a kid says his/her father snores and talks in his sleep, therefore he must be dreaming and snoring at the same time. a good possibility without any proof by a scientific method! i guess it goes to show that dreams really are closer to a mystery and not a puzzle to be solved.

    are any of your bedside dream notes making it into your book? they might be a good (and interesting) appendix! i cant promise ill buy 500 copies like your mother but ill get one copy for myself and provide some free marketing…

  3. Haha, I like that kid’s rationale. Good deductive reasoning!

    This post made me go dig out my notebook to re-read some of my notes (half of them are non-sensical, as you’d probably imagine.) The strange thing is I can remember the dream when I read back over it – although it’s a little fuzzy. I think it’s crazy what your brain can come up with when it’s not being filtered by conscious thought!

    If you’re interested more on this subject (I know the intention of your blog is to cover a little bit of everything & not neccessarily to hone in on one subject), the book Head Trip by Jeff Warren is really fascinating.

    So you, my mom and my father-in-law have committed to buying a copy… think that’s enough to get me some Amazon ratings??

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